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Back to Basics

Shutting down your sprinkler system

Shut down and drain your system around October 15th.
Note: If a hard frost is forecast in your area before you have shut down your sprinkler system, your back flow system must be protected. You can protect your back flow device by covering it with some type of insulation.

  1. Close the main shut-off valve at the main water line branch (Main Shut Off Valve)
  2. Open backflow testing valves on back flow device and loosen drain cap on back flow system.
  3. If you are blowing out your system attach an air compressor to the ¼” or 3/8” connector located after the back flow prevention device.
  4. Manually open one zone valve at a time (located in your valve box) and blow out that zone as described above.
  5. Open drain valve at end of the manifold system and backflow testing valves located on the backflow device, to finish draining all components.
  6. Replace drain cap onto back flow device DO NOT TIGHTEN.
  7. Verify that all valves are in the open position. These valves will remain open until you start up your system next season.
  8. Turn system controller to off.

Shutting Down Your Sprinkler System (PDF with instructions and graphic)

Sprinkler System SO

 

Replacing doorknobs and deadbolts

When I have a client who is buying a home.  I strongly recommend that they replace the entry door knobs and deadbolts on their home as soon as reasonably possible.  There is no way to know who the previous owners have given a key to.  For personal safety alone, this is a task that should not be delayed.

Types of Cylindrical Door Knobs
Privacy lock (aka bedroom) – has a button or thumb turn on the inside knob, which locks the door so it cannot be opened from the outside.
Passage (aka closet and hall) – cannot be locked and is typically used on closets and hallway doors.
Keyed P1000295Lockset (aka entry) – can be locked or unlocked from both sides of the door by usin g a key, a button or a throw latch depending on the type.
Dead bolt – This is an auxiliary lock that is used to improve security. A double cylinder dead bolt requires a key on both sides of the door to lock or unlock the door.

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Keyed Alike – this is when all locksets and deadbolts use the same key to lock/unlock.  When replacing locksets/deadbolts on more than one exterior door you can purchase multiple sets that are keyed alike. Look for matching numbers on the back of the packaging.

Steps to Changing a Doorknob

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Remove Screws

Remove Screws

1. Detach the trim or rose (the ring of metal between both doorknobs and the door) by removing the two screws that hold it on. In newer doorknobs, this does not exist.

2. Remove two more screws under the trim. These are long screws that attach the two doorknobs on either side of the door.

3. Pull the doorknobs apart and remove them from the door.

 

Remove Screws

Remove Screws

 

4. Remove the two screws that hold the bolt (the locking mechanism), which remains attached to the door, and extract the bolt or throw.

Note: If you are replacing your doorknob with the same brand, you may not need to change this portion out.

 

P1000297

 

 

5. Look at the metal strike plate attached to the frame around the door (this is what catches the bolt). If the strike plate is not loose and is the right color, leave it there. Otherwise, detach it by removing its screws.

6. Insert the new bolt into the door and screw it into place. Remember to face the slanted side toward the direction the door closes.
7. Insert the doorknob on both sides of the door, making sure the two are aligned so that P1000328the long screws can hold them together.
8. Tighten the screws gradually, alternating each one so that the doorknobs come together evenly.

Maintaining your water heater

Modern water heaters are difficult to repair and don’t require a lot of maintenance.  This disadvantage with water heaters today is that they life span of a typical water heater is between 10 and 12 years.

To increase the life of your water heater here are some recommendations:

  • Lower the temperature setting on the thermostat to 120° F.  This provides sufficient hot water for
    most families, reduces the chance of scalding, and decreases wear on your water heater’s tank.
  • Corrosion happens faster in hotter water. Your water heater is built with a sacrificial anode that helps protect the steel tank by providing a replaceable component that sacrifices itself to the naturally occurring corrosive compounds in the water. This anode should be replaced periodically.
  • Sediment is small particles of debris that settle out on the bottom of your water heater. A drain valve at the bottom of every water heater provides a way to drain sediment from the tank. If your water heater rumbles or makes other noises, you probably have a build-up of sediment in the tank and should consider draining a portion of the water to remove the sediment.
Steps to drain a water heater

  1. Turn off the water supply shut-off valve.  This valve is located on the cold water supply to the water heater.
  2. Turn the temperature dial to ‘vacation’ mode.  This will prevent the burner from actuating while the water heater is draining.
  3. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater and direct the hose to a safe location.  If you have a floor drain nearby you can drain it there.
  4. Open up the drain valve and beginning draining the water.  If you don’t see any sediment in the water you can stop at any time.  If there is sediment in the water continue to drain until the water is clear.
  5. Close the valve and disconnect the hose.
  6. Turn the water supply back on
  7. Turn the temperature dial back to your original setting.

Keeping out the bugs – repairing your screens

I saw a news report recently about West Nile disease found in mosquitoes in Fort Collins, Colorado.  The report gave some important things everyone can do to reduce the chances of being bitten by a mosquito and contracting this awful disease.

The suggestions were:

  1. Remove all standing water sources from your property
  2. When working or playing outdoors at dawn or dusk use repellent and dress in long sleeves and pants.
  3. Repair all of the screens in your home. 

#3 is one of the recommendations I can help you with. Luckily, repairing screens is so simple it’s crazy not to do it today.

Repairing a plastic or fiberglass screen
Most screens today are made from plastic or fiberglass and small holes can easily be patched.



You can purchase a simple patch with self-sticking adhesive on one side from your local hardware story. The patch comes in a 3″ x 3″ square and can be cut to size. Apply the patch directly over any small hole or cut in the screen and you’re done!

For really small holes you can simply use a small amount of household cement, the patch will be next to invisible.

Repairing metal screens

Although metal screens are much less common they are still around on many homes.  But repairing them can be just as easy.

You can purchase a ready made metal screen repair patch or you can cut a patch from an old screen.  If you’re cutting a piece of screen yourself it should be at least 1/2″ – 1″ larger on all sides than the hole you’re repairing.

Unravel several strands from the patch and if necessary bend the strands along the edges.

Slip the bent strands of the patch through the screen and fold them over on the opposite side to hold the patch in place.

A small amount of household cement on the ends of the strands may help keep them in place over time.




If you’re screen is damaged beyond repair you can easily replace the screen by following some simple steps.  Here’s a link to my blog post that will walk you through the steps.

The plumbing in your home – an overview

Residential Plumbing System Overview
Plumbing refers to the entire system in which water enters a home, travels to the sinks, tubs, showers and appliances and then leaves once it has been used.
How Water Reaches the House
In general drinking water comes from surface water or ground water.  It is piped to the treatment plant where the water is treated to remove contaminants.  In a typical community water supply system, water is transported under pressure through a distribution network of buried pipes.  Smaller pipes, called house service lines, are attached to the main water lines to bring water to the house. 
The water meter can be located underground and is identified by the water meter cover in the yard.  Water meters can also be found on the inside of a home.  A valve at the meter can be turned on and off by the city. 

Once the water line reaches the house, the main water shut off valve allows the homeowner to shut off the water for repairs.  The main water shut off valve is typically located in the basement or crawl space on the wall closest to the street.



After the shut off valve the water line will branch off.  One branch supplies water directly to the cold water side of your fixtures and the other branch supplies water to your water heater.  Water is piped into the water heater, heated, and then piped back out to the hot water side of the fixtures.
Used water inside the house is sent through the drain and sewer system.  The sewer line is located in the basement, crawl space or in the cement slab foundation.  All sewer and drain pipes connect to the main sewer line which eventually connects to the public sewer line that runs under the ground.
Note: The supply branch and shut off valve for a sprinkler system is normally located immediately after the main water shut off.  (Sprinkler systems require seasonal start up and shut down to prevent freezing and broken lines.)

Sump PumpsIn some areas of the country you will find sump pits and pumps in the basements or crawl spaces of homes.  A sump pump is a pump used to remove water that has accumulated in a sump pit. A sump pit is a hole that collects water from a foundation’s perimeter drain or ground water, if the basement is below the water table level. Water collecting in the pit is pumped out and away from the foundation. Since a sump pit may overflow if the pump stops working. A backup system is important if the electrical supply to the pump will be interrupted for any length of time.

How to repair & replace your screens

How to Replace a Window 

Pry out the old spline with an awl or a narrow-tipped screwdriver. Throw it away— spline gets hard and brittle as it ages and shouldn’t be reused.

Lay the new screen material over the frame. It should overlap the frame by about 1 to 2 inches around the entire perimeter.. Cut each corner at a 45-degree angle just slightly beyond the spline groove. The cuts keep the screen from bunching in the corners.

 

Using the convex (rounded edge) side of the screen rolling tool, press the screen material into the groove in the frame.

Begin installing the new spline at a corner. Using the convex (grooved edge) side of the screen rolling tool to push the spline into the groove. Continue around the frame. If wrinkles or bulges appear, remove the spline and reroll. Small wrinkles should tighten up as you get back to the starting corner.

Trim excess screen material using a utility knife with a new sharp blade. A dull blade will pull the material, not cut it. Cut with the blade on top of the spline and pointed toward the outside of the frame.

Labeling (mapping) your electrical service panel (aka breaker box)

Map Your Electrical Circuits
Mapping the circuits in your home is done to verify or identify which circuit breaker in your service panel controls what branch circuit in your home.  Follow the steps below:
1.     Sketch Your Breaker Box (Service Panel) – Draw a quick sketch of the breakers in your service panel and assign a number to each circuit breaker in your panel.    

                          

2.     Draw a floor plan of your home.  Use a full sheet of paper for each floor.  (see example below)

3.     Note location of all devices – Using the codes listed; record the location of all receptacles, switches and lightsAlso show, by using a dotted line, which switch controls which light.  Note: Make sure all receptacles are working and turn all light switches to the “on” position.
          
4.     Turn off Breaker # 1 – turn off the power to the first circuit by switching off the breaker. 
5.     Find all devices with NO power – Walk through the house, checking lights and receptacles.  If a light doesn’t work or a receptacle does not light your tester the device is on that circuit.  Note: Do not forget the garage, attic and outdoor lights and receptacles. 
6.Mark on your floor plan– On the map write a 1 (or corresponding number) next to each dead receptacle, switch or light.
7.     Mark your circuit breaker – Write a short description of the circuit on an adhesive label and place it next to the breaker.
8.     Turn the first circuit back on.
9.     Repeat Steps 4 through 8 – Map the remaining circuits by repeating the steps above for each breaker in your service panel.  NOTE:  It may be easier to color code each circuit once you have completed the mapping.
Completed Mapping of Circuits

10.  Store completed map – Place the completed map of your circuits in a plastic sleeve and secure it on the inside of the door to your service panel for easy access in the future.

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